• etcetera team

Poem: They Don't Know - Angela Gupta

They don’t know.

A poem by Angela Gupta


She’s just shy,

they say.

But what they don't know

is that she is a perfectionist paralysed

by her sweaty palms shaking legs stomping heart,

she is the heightened self-consciousness as she is walking down the hallway,

the sinking feeling of dread when she hears her name,

the crippling fear of saying something wrong.


She’s just shy,

they say.

But what they don’t know

is that the shy girl sitting in the corner

has got words clawing at her throat

claustrophobic animals scrambling to escape,

desperate to make their presence known

– but self-doubt is a prison that holds them back.


She’s just shy,

they say.

But what they don’t know

is that she is surrounded by predators

with dagger-eyes that penetrate her delicate defences,

judging her for the way she looks the way she talks the way she thinks

– perpetually on the verge of being exposed for not mastering

the art of pretending to be normal.


She’s just shy,

they say.

But what they don't know

is that she plasters an ever-present smile to obscure

the palpitating fear of messing up,

the self-hatred that festers

in the putrid crevices of her mind

– a prosperous breeding ground for irrational thought.


She’s just shy,

they say.

But they don’t know

about her sleepless nights,

when her day replays in her mind,

a broken record,

scratched and slashed by self-loath,

all the things she said,

not good enough.

so now it is merely a screeching scrap of plastic

– its music lost.


She’s just shy,

they say.

But they don’t know

is that she is a living paradox:

waking up with eager eyes and a hungry heart,

but going to bed wishing to close it all shut

– trying to run from the world that she so desperately desires to be a part of.


She’s just shy,

they say.

But they don’t know

that within her still lives a young child with epic dreams:

to be an astronaut author actress

(all at once)

but she is trapped in a foreign body speaking an alien language

don’t look at me don’t look at me don’t look at me

– leaving her with only the dream of invisibility to fantasise about.


so she says nothing.


But they don’t know

They Don’t.

NEVER MISS A THING

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